Tell me about yourself, I can't wait for the audience to get to know you!
Hello! My name is Lauren Swonke. My husband and I publish Ten Ninety Seven - Willis Monthly News, the community newspaper for Willis, Texas. I’ve been married for nearly 11 years to my sweet husband, Chris, and we have three wonderful kiddos. They’re the sunshine of our days! We work hard to love each other and our kiddos well. My greatest goal in life is to honor Jesus! He’s worth anything good I have to offer the world. I grew up in a small town in Deep East Texas, the baby of four girls, and daughter of a pastor and one awesome mama!
What do you like to do in your free time and what is one of your hobbies?
In my free time, I like to visit my mom, sisters and their families in my hometown. I love to travel with my family. I’m not big into flying, but I love taking road trips and just having time away to really look at my kids, get to know my husband more, and have fun. I love to cook and bake. Honestly, chasing babies and keeping our business going takes so much time and energy, I really enjoy cleaning house and working out in the yard! Sounds basic, but I love a clean house!
What are the three things that are most important to you?
Most important is my relationship with God. Second to that is my relationship with my husband, family and others. Another thing that’s super important to me is living out my purpose in this life. I don’t want to go to the grave with an ounce of potential unspent!
Do you think it's important to set goals and dream big dream?
Absolutely! If we don’t set goals, those thoughts just bounce around in our heads without ever being pursued and rarely met. It’s so important to set goals! When I was a kid we went to summer camp each year and one year the theme was “Dream Big.” I’ve lived my life from that place of dreaming big dreams, and I want to continue to dream bigger, more audacious dreams!
What is your vision for your future?
We’ve been in a very transitional state for the last 6 months in our family. My husband has changed his career, we’ve had a new baby, and my big kids are growing every day to be more and more independent. My vision for my future is just to grow more and more content in every situation, and to have greater faith all the time for whatever God is doing in our life and business. I’m learning more and more to have a goal or a vision for the future, but to leave room for God to work. I’m typically a pretty ‘future-oriented’ person, always planning for what’s next. I’m learning to walk in that place of balance between planning for the future and leaving space for God to change it all up if he so chooses.
When did you know you were called to do this?
When I was in high school, mostly my junior and senior years, I knew I wanted to be a journalist. I’ve loved writing since I was probably 7 or 8, but really honed in on what I wanted to do with that in high school.
What were the defining moments in your life that helped you realize you're calling?
What steps did you take to make it to where you are today? I’ve been really blessed to have been so encouraged by my Dad and Mom to pursue whatever I wanted to do, and to offer any gifts and talents that I possess to God for him to use for his glory. They have always been my greatest encouragers. When I was in the 7th grade, I believe, I was asked to emcee our student council elections. That was such a huge thing to me, as a kid, getting up in front of our whole school, and kind of moderating that event. I loved it! Another big moment was the first time I ever saw my writing in print in a newspaper. There is something so thrilling about knowing that my thoughts are being read by others and potentially impacting their thoughts and lives. Our hometown newspaper printed a few of my pieces when I was in college. I was thrilled! I wrote for The Houstonian some when I was at Sam Houston, also. Those were moments that I totally knew that I was born to communicate! A step that I took to get where I am today was just stepping out and going to school. I was determined to get through college! It wasn’t always easy, but I knew that it was something I had to do to work in this field. I’m a huge proponent of young people getting the training and education they need to walk in their calling! As far as starting the paper, we just took one step at a time to get the ball rolling. It was about an 8-month process, but we just took one day at a time until the first issue launched.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
Besides Jesus, my Dad and Mom. My Dad passed away 5 years ago. He was such a visionary type. He founded a church and pastored there for over 25 years. It was a very difficult task, but he stayed to it. He was super tenacious and faith-filled. He was also an incredible dad. He loved us fiercely and was committed to really pouring into us what we needed for life. My mom is just precious. She served right alongside my dad for all of those years. She has been through a lot of difficult times, but continued to stand strong in faith and love for our family. She devoted her life to raising us and has been my closest friend.
Who has influenced you the most and what is the greatest lesson you learned from them?
Again, my parents. My greatest lesson is just to HANG ON! In college, I would start a class and tell mom, “I think I need to drop this class; it’s going to be too hard.” She would always encourage me to hang in there and give it a chance. I never dropped a class throughout college. That’s a tiny example of the way they’ve lived life. You don’t run when things get hard! You dig in your heels and stay committed to seeing something through!
What does being a beauty queen mean to you?
It’s so incredibly sweet to be included in this series. Being a beauty queen really means just being a beautiful person all around. I call my little girls ‘beauty queen’ a lot, as an endearing term. When I say that, I mean that they are absolutely precious to me, and beautiful inside and out. I think God sees us that way.
What inspires you to live with passion every single day?
Serving God! I want to give my absolute best to him! I think about that saying, “may the Lamb receive the reward of his suffering,” often. I want Jesus to receive his full reward for what he gave on my behalf. I don’t want to live one day in a pitiful state, ungrateful for this life. That’s true in my business, as a mom, wife, sister, and so on. Also, my husband and kids! I am inspired to live my life with passion because they deserve that, too. I want to be passionate about caring for them and creating a happy, positive life for them.
How did you use that passion to make your dreams come true?
I think being driven to honor God with my life drives me to fulfill my dreams. I love what I do, and that passion fuels me to keep going and to do everything God has called me to do!
What is a quote or saying that you live by?
I love pretty much any quote from Mother Teresa. One I love is, “We can do no great things - only small things with great love.” One scripture that I love and that fuels me is Hebrews 12:2. It says, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” That scripture reminds me to keep moving forward and to keep my eye on the prize!
Through the ups and downs of your life what is the greatest lesson that you have learned?
The greatest lesson I’ve learned is probably just what I mentioned above, to be faithful to whatever God has given you to do, and to chase down your dreams! They’re worth it!
What advice would you give the beauty queens reading this interview about following their dreams?
I think it’s so important to not let fear keep you from pursuing your dreams. I was very afraid for those 8 months of preparation when we were about to launch the paper. I love the thought of doing something even when you’re afraid. It kicks fear in the butt and says, ‘Im not going to be ruled by you. I’m not going to be stopped by you. In fact, I’m going to defeat you.’ I would encourage every reader to write down those dreams, commit them to the Lord and start making steps, even if they’re tiny, toward seeing them become a reality.